February 26, 2009

Authoring Opinions

Ryan Benjamin Witte, Columbia University Law School and Florida State University College of Law, has published "The Judge as an Author/The Author as a Judge." Here is the abstract.
For Federal judges, a life-tenure also comes with a life-long publishing deal. While some judges remain faithful to the rigid framework of judicial opinion writing that dominates the shelves of law libraries throughout the country, others utilize certain cases to summon their inner novelist or poet to add life to the pages of the Federal Register.

The use of humor, poetry, and popular culture in judicial opinions is not without its criticism. This paper is divided into two main topics; the first discusses the judge as an author. The section will begin with an examination of the audience of judicial opinions and an outline of the different styles of judicial opinion writing. The section will also examine the advantages and disadvantages of using literary tools to advance the law.

The second section addresses the role of the artist as a judge. This section will study a small segment of judges who, in addition to the law, maintain an outside career as an author or artist. Judges who fit into this group include authors of books, operas, and magazine articles, and their opinions are often written in a manner which reflects their experience. This section will also discuss the advantages (and potential drawbacks) of having these unique judges deciding cases dealing with a wide range of author's issues, including copyright and free speech, both substantively and stylistically.

Download the paper from SSRN here.

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